Posted on February 2, 2023 in Technology

Can a Metaverse Manage to Be Engaging?

Cryptocurrency and NFT communities have long tried to provide some benefit for investment. Everything from cartoons to video games to virtual parks and chatrooms are thrown up in the air as rewards for reaching investment goals, and sometimes they do actually manage to make something.

However, just because there’s a lot of money behind any one project doesn’t mean the project is going to come out well.


The company formerly known as Facebook is not the only ‘Metaverse’. Taking that name for itself was sort of like a car company calling itself “The Sedan Maker”, or a Call of Duty game calling itself “First Person Shooter Game”.

Decentraland, for example, has a metaverse of it’s own. It actually recently had an article pop up on Byte discussing the metaverse it had created – 38 individual Decentraland members had interacted with the site over the course of 24 hours. Decentraland was quick to clarify that the number the website Futurism had seen was just the number of users who’d interacted using their crypto wallets – the actual number of people who’d logged on to chat or look around was a much more respectable 8,000 or so.

Still, it showcases an opacity problem: nobody except the people in the project can really tell what’s going on. Open-multiplayer style games and places are much more fun when other people are hanging out in the game, so if potential users see that report and not the 8,000 number, they may be less likely to join. Facebook has not done a great job of advertising what you can actually do in the metaverse outside of walking around. In fact, walking around is such a big part of the virtual world that Facebook’s Metaverse has now added feet to the mix.

It Will Look Good Eventually

The metaverse that Facebook is putting together just doesn’t look very good. To be fair, a number of VR games look ‘weird’ in one way or another, if only because the technology is so new that nobody knows how to make assets for games intended to be shown entirely on curved screens. Facebook’s metaverse is very sterile and plasticky. Decentraland’s looks much the same.

Animations made for trailers for either of these things don’t tend to look very good either, Decentraland because it looks like they used in-house talent to make something with Blender and Facebook’s Metaverse because the avatars that make up most of the virtual world’s draw look like Nintendo Miis, which themselves are a reminder of the late 2000s for a number of Gen-Z, Millenials, and inbetweeners.

Foundationally, the products could be considered in ‘beta’ development. An equivalent in construction would be the stage where the outer walls are up, the floors are installed, but insulation still needs to be blown in and the roof put on. It’s a structure, and people can be inside it, but it’s not really done. If any company doing this stops developing their product right now, nobody would be especially happy with the end result. Facebook’s metaverse is aware of this, and continues to add features – Decentraland and a handful of other crypto projects seem to be pushing the line on what ‘done’ means.

The same goes for a number of projects outside the blockchain, but still tied to a final product. Video games, cartoons, art prints, and more are all in the works and in beta testing, and will eventually look good or be finished, but right now they simply serve as a placeholder for something better… in theory.

Or Maybe It Will Just Be Like That Forever

The first episode of the Bored Apes cartoon swaps between still images of the character’s faces instead of actually animating them. There is a difference – animation usually features a transition between expressions using in-between frames of each face the character makes, so it looks smooth. The Bored Apes cartoon simply went from one still to another without any interstitial frames. It’s an interesting-looking effect, but it is quite jarring – the cartoon’s creators even acknowledged how weird it ended up looking in the second episode of the cartoon, in a moment of meta-awareness. The thing is, though… they’re not going to redo that first episode. It is one of the better cartoon projects created by an NFT (this is not a recommendation to watch it) which is a low bar to cross because other cartoons in that same family end up coming across as edutainment videos for crypto currencies. The trailer for the Decentraland project is not all that different from the cartoon made as a project reward. This is because those groups said they’d produce a cartoon before they had any ideas for a story to tell, and we get these weird half-baked creations instead of something somebody wanted to make.

They have the potential to make something good, but they can’t make something good, cheap, and fast to produce, so they settled for fast and cheap. In the crypto industry, with it’s many rugpull schemes and thefts, projects cannot leave their customers waiting for too long before they start to get antsy about getting their money back. Constant insecurity means constant vigilance for the first hint the project’s creators are abandoning ship. The cartoon better be done before people stop buying!

The Inherent Desire To Save The Money

These websites only being measurable by client wallet interaction is a more perfect metaphor than one I could ever create. The wallet is the only measure other people see because the wallet is ultimately what determines ‘success’ in these rings. It’s the ultimate pay-to-win game. Token holders are expected to shell out on virtual real estate and funny pictures of animals as a matter of clout.

There is a concept in ‘free market’ enthusiasts – if you just let companies and customers wheedle away, eventually, they will make the best possible product that they can for the lowest possible price they can. Ignoring things like inelastic demand, the problem with that concept is that ‘the best product’ is sort of meaningless when it’s A) something artistic, like cartoons and NFTs themselves, or B) something so breathtakingly new on the market that nobody else is there to provide competition yet. These projects get away with producing ugly or bad cartoons and poorly made video games because they have, essentially, a monopoly on the product.

And why would an NFT project want to spend money to make something of quality? When an NFT project offers up a cartoon for hitting participation goals, what is entailed in that? They never said they’d hire writers. They never said the animation was going to be smooth. They haven’t deceived anyone, but they’re monetarily motivated to cut corners and push something cheap and easy out the door. Other crypto products have somewhat tainted the reputation of such technology, and so they have to produce something to avoid looking like a scam, as well.

Essentially, the market is incentivizing guaranteed poor rewards over potentially good rewards, because the timeframe to produce something good can make it look like nothing is coming. Customers are getting burned over and over again.